BOOKS, BAGUETTES AND BEDBUGS
IF YOU LOVE bookshops, the goings-on within and without a bookshop, and all the intricacies involved in bookselling, you will most probably enjoy Jeremy Mercer’s Books, Baguettes and Bedbugs: The Left Bank World of Shakespeare & Co. (Weidenfeld & Nicolson, November 10, 2005), where he talks about the five months he spent living at Shakespeare and Co., Paris’s most famous English-language bookshop located across the river from Notre Dame in the 5th arrondissement of the City of Lights, the people he met there and his relationship with the shop’s cantankerous octogenarian owner, George Whitman. “Bookstores are sanctuaries. Places to lose yourself, escape the harsh demands of daily life, find new ways to dream and new sources of inspiration. I love all booksellers; anybody who helps spread the word is doing noble work. But my favourite bookstores are the small eccentric independents run by passionate and usually slightly mad book lovers,” Mercer says.
Here is what Mercer says about the legendarily chaotic Paris bookshop: “George Whitman has been running what he calls ‘a socialist utopia masquerading as a bookstore’ for 50 years. His store has long been a literary hub, attracting the likes of Henry Miller, Richard Wright, and William Burroughs. More importantly, George has been inviting people to live in his shop from its very first days. There are now 13 beds among the books, and he says that more than 40,000 people have slept there at one time or another. All he asks is that you make your bed in the morning, help out in the shop, and read a book a day. After living here for five months, I was inspired to write my own book about the place.”
Books, Baguettes and Bedbugs: The Left Bank World of Shakespeare & Co. is published in the U.S. as Time Was Soft There: A Paris Sojourn at Shakespeare & Co. (St. Martin’s Press, 2005).
Shakespeare and Co. is at 37 rue de la Bucherie, Paris, France